Alper Tuzcu is a 3rd semester student at Berklee. He is from Istanbul, Turkey. He plays guitar and is a Contemporary Writing and Production major.
Last year, when I was visiting Barcelona for a few days, I remember thinking to myself “I want to live and study/work here at some point in my life”. Upon getting to Berklee and realizing the opportunity to study abroad in Valencia, I was immediately on board. As a Contemporary Writing and Production major, I plan to pursue a career in the global music industry and to make music that transcends borders and brings distant cultures together with fusion music. So my experience at Valencia is just a start for what is about to come next.
Valencia might be three hours south of Barcelona, but it is close enough as a start. Close enough in the sense that it is a Berklee campus – in Europe. It offers some of the same classes in Boston in undergraduate level. And on the top of it, it has graduate level degrees if you want to further your studies. . And further more, you are in the cultural heart of Europe. Did I forget the mention the city is by the Mediterranean with beaches stretching over the shore?
The study abroad program in Valencia is an integrated experience, because the academic life, the campus, the classes, teachers, ensembles, the cultural life, the music scene in the city are all parts of each other. For this reason, in this blog I will provide snapshots of each sometimes together and sometimes separately. I think every Berklee student who wants to make a difference and aspires to be a part of the global music scene should go through the Berklee Valencia Study abroad experience.
As we step in to the bus that is about to give us a city tour of Valencia, someone asks Marisol, our student coordinator at Berklee Valencia this question. No one is surprised someone finally asked it, because the city of Valencia is surrounded by orange trees on its streets for kilometers. There are orange trees with actual, full oranges on the trees literally everywhere you go. So even if you don’t like them so much, as you walk around you can not help but wonder.
Unfortunately, Marisol has to explain us that the oranges are for “cosmetic purposes” and they taste bitter if you try them. But she adds that we could buy them, I mean a lot of them if we want, from local stores for a very cheap price. Vegetables and fruits at Valencia are really cheap (compared to the US), as in most cities around the Mediterranean. Life is cheap, as well as healthy here.
The day that I got here, I met up with my friend Zoe and we immediately made way to the beach. Valencia stretches over a long coast over the Mediterranean and there are long beaches across the town. The beach area is so big that it is mainly used in winter for water sports, basketball, volleyball, football (soccer), cycling, sand sculptures and many more activities. Despite it is the middle of January, there are a lot of people walking, hanging out in cafes and restaurants, enjoying the weekend.
It is not a coincidence that there is so much space for leisure activities in Valencia. Valencia has a very extensive culture, ranging from tourism, to thriving contemporary art and of course to an amazing music scene. The history of Valencia also goes way back hundreds of years ago as a cosmopolitan port in the Mediterranean. As a port city, it has been influenced by many cultures around the area, such as the Arabs, Catalans, Galicians, Romans, Phoenicians etc through the history. So, the city is very open to new cultures and languages.
Before coming to Spain, I did not have a lot of experience speaking Spanish. I started learning Spanish last semester in Boston, but I did not have a lot of speaking and listening experience. It is a bit challenging at first, because the Spanish here is spoken really fast and it is a different accent than most of the Spanish taught in the US. However, after a week your ear sort of gets used to it and starts hearing the nuances. It is easy to stay in your comfort zone and switch to English, to which people respond gladly almost everywhere. However, then you do not really get to understand what life is here like, or how people think or express their feelings. It is a challenge worth taking, because the experience just keeps getting better everyday.
The highlight of the cultural life in Valencia in the last couple of years is the City of Arts and Sciences project, which includes the Berklee campus, as well as Europe’s biggest aquarium, giant concert halls, pools, and an amazing futuristic architecture that would put Gaudi to shame.
The futuristic architecture of the place is not a joke, in fact the new Disney movie Tomorrowland, featuring George Clooney and Hugh Laurie will be shot here. So there is a bit of construction going around the campus currently.
This is really our campus. The first time we were taken here last week, we were entirely dumbfounded with the extent of the structure, not to mention it is entirely dedicated for arts and sciences. The whole structure is so giant you can easily see it from the plane while landing.
The best part is, the Berklee Valencia campus is on the middle of City of Arts and Sciences. This campus has state of art facilities, including gorgeous recording studios, amazing computer labs, ensemble rooms, an almost entirely digital library and spacious practice rooms.
With over 150 graduate and undergraduate Berklee students combined, the campus has an awesome atmosphere with musicians coming from so many different backgrounds, if not at different academic levels. Especially some of the orientation events were specifically designed so that everyone could meet, since it is a very small campus. Within the first week, we all started spending time together – including playing music in and outside of the school.
In fact, one of the sessions was a mixer at a café on the Arts building, which included a brief presentation of the history of Spain and its culture, as well as a cajon workshop at the end. The cajon workshop was basically 20 cajons in a circle and an instructor sitting in to direct the rhythms. They practiced very cool flamenco rhythms, as well as some latin grooves. Those who could not find a cajon were banging on forks, plates, tables etc whatever they could find. Anyway, at the end of the workshop I found out that the director of the workshop, Max, was the drummer/percussionist of one of my favorite bands – Ojos de Brujo – who was a brilliant Mediterranean music band until they disbanded in 2011. Now Max is a Masters student in the Music Business program at Berklee Valencia.